The Tech Herald

Atom smashing starts today at Large Hadron Collider (Update)

by Stevie Smith - Mar 30 2010, 09:46

The LHC, buried deep below the border of France and Switzerland. Image: George Grassie/ZUMA Press.

Update:

Initial attempts to collide the particle streams within the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have been scuppered by a spate of technical problems, according to comments made by Steve Myers, head of accelerators at CERN.

Apparently the first attempt to cross the streams and create particle collisions failed when a power supply suddenly tripped, while a second attempt made soon after was thwarted due to a glitch connected to the recently installed magnet safeguard system.

If the 'end of the world' rants attributed to LHC protestors are to be believed, today's failures have likely been caused by collided particles from a devastated future travelling back through time to prevent the giant accelerator from ever working.

Original story:

Having broken the energy record for particle acceleration during recent power-up tests, the mighty subterranean Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is finally ready to begin smashing atoms together in an attempt to uncover valuable information about the origins of the universe.

According to the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), project scientists located at the facility outside Geneva on the Franco-Swiss border will today begin crossing two densely packed proton streams that have been hurtling in opposite directions around the giant ringed facility since March 19.

Smashing together at velocities approaching the speed of light, it is hoped the resulting particle collisions will re-create conditions experienced within the universe just moments after the Big Bang, and will also reveal details relating to dark matter and theoretical particles such as the elusive Higgs Boson – which is also known as The God Particle.

However, CERN officials have said it could take as long as several weeks to achieve a successful collision due to the size and complexity of the machinery and the experiment – the latter of which has been equated to firing two sets of needles at each other across the Atlantic and trying to get them to meet perfectly in the middle.

And, once particles collisions have been recorded, it is likely to take much longer to fully process the resulting data.

“Major discoveries will happen only when we are able to collect billions of events and identify among them the very rare events that could present a new state of matter or new particles,” explained LHC spokeman Guido Tonelli in a BBC News report.

“This is not going to happen tomorrow,” he added. “It will require months and years of patient work.”

Running at a cost of some $10 billion USD, the Large Hadron Collider was initially powered up in September of 2008, only for an overheating issue and gas leak to cause serious damage to superconducting magnets, which required more than a year of repairs alongside the addition of various new safety measures.

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